nrgburst: (handling hiccup's pencil)
[personal profile] nrgburst
Title: Into the Open Air
Fandom: How to train your dragon/ Dreamworks Dragons
Characters: Astrid/Hiccup (Hiccstrid), Fishlegs, Ruffnut, Tuffnut, Snotlout, Toothless, Meatlug
Word Count: ~3000
Rating/Warnings: T
Summary: Bad decisions (and some good ones) in that sweetly awkward period after becoming a teenage couple in a small village. Hiccstrid set between Defenders of Berk and HTTYD2.

They decide to keep their fledgling romance a secret, keeping all public interaction studiously casual. Village gossip in a place as small as Berk is a lot like Speed Stingers- a pest that quickly overtakes the entire population, paralyzing their ability to talk about anything else. That kiss she'd so brashly given him after he'd survived beating the Red Death had come up for months, and they both want to avoid the pressure of nosy questions and constant teasing this time. This new territory they're venturing into feels both precious and precarious, and it's so much easier to explore in private.

Luckily, it's easy enough to get away on dragon-back, and the summer sun lingers until evening so they can steal an hour or two without raising any suspicions. If she comes back home with fresh flowers for the table or with a new bracelet of seashells clinking around her wrist, her father assumes she's just been out enjoying the bounty of the season. Likewise, Stoick chalks up Hiccup's buoyant mood to the extra inches the boy has finally put on. Hiccup doesn't disabuse him of the notion- he's not keen on getting The Father-Son Talk On Girls.

Still, it's hard not to slip up occasionally- smiling a bit too warmly when their eyes meet or making some inside joke in front of the others without thinking. And they quickly realize that their friends really aren't that observant- getting Snotlout and the twins to pay attention to anything that isn't an explosion or food item usually requires considerable effort anyway, and it soon becomes apparent that Fishlegs is far more attuned to dragon mating habits than noting that the two of them constantly choose to sit together at meals, or that they head off in the same direction once work is done for the day.

So Hiccup starts putting them into a team on their own more often. He usually has Astrid lead the other team if he splits their group into two- a single crack of her knuckles works as effectively as a plasma blast from Toothless. But he tells himself that they're all old enough to take responsibility for themselves. And there are benefits to working with Astrid besides being able to hang out all day: they work so efficiently together that they usually finish early, gaining another hour or two of private time.

Niggling feelings of guilt are squashed under the easy banter as they work; the sparks of fun and anticipation when they sneak off, and that steadily growing fire of reciprocated feelings. So for a few weeks, the change in their relationship develops in a blissful little bubble.


It's the extra stress on Meatlug that Fishlegs notices first.

It's not that he dislikes working with Snotlout and the twins- the insults and bickering are just background noises they're all accustomed to, and they're way more fun (and funny) than Hiccup and Astrid. But it's hard to get stuff done without all of them pitching in, and no matter how he nags and pleads, at least one of them always ends up goofing off or doing something counterproductive, forcing him and Meatlug to work all the harder. His dragon is too sweet natured to bully the others into doing their fair share, and he's just not a confrontational kind of guy. So they've ended up working a lot of overtime recently just to finish up what their group is assigned.

"Wow- it looks like you're losing weight, sweetie. I can't believe I just had to adjust the saddle down a whole notch. That can't be healthy- you'll be laying another clutch in just a few months! We'll head to the quarry and get you a big pile of really tasty rocks tonight, okay?" he fusses, caressing her bumpy head. She looks at him adoringly and sighs happily, tongue lolling, but Fishlegs continues to frown.

Come to think of it, he's ended up on teams with them an awful lot lately. It's a bit unfair- a more equitable distribution of dragon resources today would surely have been Stormfly on this team, and Barf and Belch with Toothless. Hiccup must be slipping- he's actually done that a lot recently.

"Let's go let him know, okay girl? Maybe he's thinking of strength stats, but since the decorations were more finicky than heavy, the differences would have been negligible." She crouches and he clambers up, waiting until she gives a little shimmy of her wings to show that she's ready for flight. "Let's start in the village square. They might still be there."

But once they arrive, it's obvious that work is complete- all the Midsummer Fest streamers and banners are up, fluttering gaily in the wind. He gives Meatlug an affectionate pat. "Think you can track down Toothless, girl? I want to talk to Hiccup before he makes the assignments for tomorrow."

Eager to please, she sniffs the air in a broad circle before heading confidently towards Raven Point. He's relieved it's a short flight over forests and streams and not a jaunt to some faraway unknown island: Hiccup has a thing for exploring and Meatlug doesn't have the same kind of range Toothless does, plus they need to get to the quarry.

He spots Toothless and Stormfly first, gambolling about in some kind of valley with a largish pond. "That's odd. What are they doing there when they could be back home feeding?"

He catches sight of a brightly coloured blanket through the trees and steers Meatlug down towards it- only to gasp when he spots the two kissing on top of it. He's too busy boggling to remember to tell Meatlug to slow down, and they crash rather spectacularly, bringing down a hail of needles and pinecones upon impact.

Astrid flips Hiccup off of her at the sound, assuming a defensive position, panting and wide eyed.

"Owwww! Geez, Astrid!"

"Sorry, but- Fishlegs! Gods- what are you doing here?" she demands, hastily checking her clothing, cheeks flaming.

Stormfly and Toothless come running over, warbling curiously. Meatlug blinks, unperturbed as she rolls herself upright and waddles back away from the tree she'd hit- Gronkles are tough. Toothless gives Hiccup a nudge as he sits up, grimacing, and gets a reassuring pat. Satisfied, he goes back to the game he was playing with Stormfly, dragging some tree branch on the ground.

Fishlegs dusts himself off and checks Meatlug for injuries, red-faced and scrambling. "Www-well if I'd known about you two I wouldn't have come at all!" he stammers. "But I needed to talk to Hiccup about our assignments lately and, and- I guess this is why you've been sticking me with the others? So you two can finish early and, and- sssuck face while the rest of us are stuck working?"

Hiccup winces, and Astrid looks abashed and looks away. "Well… technically it was the same number of decorations per dragon, so we weren't guaranteed to finish early…" he offers feebly.

"That's not actually fair and you know it! Did you know that Meatlug has been losing weight with how overworked she's been? How would you like making up extra work all the time because half your team was setting stuff on fire for kicks? Or, or making booby traps out of decorations instead of putting them up?"

"All they need are some firm directions and-"

"-From who? I'm not supposed to be team leader, Hiccup! Last I checked, that's you."

That strikes a nerve. "What, so you're saying that you're completely incapable of working in a team if I'm not there? Really? What are we, twelve again?"

"Well-" Fishlegs is at a loss for a moment before his face goes stubborn, "You're supposed to be more responsible! You are the son of the Chief after all."

Hiccup rolls his eyes and throws up his hands. "Well, it's a good thing I lobbied so hard for the position."

"Hiccup," Astrid admonishes.

He looks at her and sighs. "Fine, fine. I'm sorry, okay? I didn't know it would be so hard on you and Meatlug. It won't happen again. Without good reason," he adds quickly.

Fishlegs nods stiffly, chins quivering. "Okay. That- sounds fair." He shrugs. "I guess it's hard having to be leader all the time, too. You know, I can help balancing out stats for teams if you let me know what the Chief wants us to do. I know it's not much…"

Hiccup nods and gives him a reassuring smile. "Thanks. I'm always glad to have your expertise."

That perks him up and the bigger boy nods and smiles more confidently before he mounts Meatlug again. But there's an awkward silence once he's back in the saddle.

Hiccup gestures hesitantly. "Could you…I mean, would you mind keeping our…"

Fishlegs shrugs uncomfortably. "Who would I tell anyway? What I don't get is why you guys are sneaking around. We all expected it- she kissed you in front of the whole village a couple years ago."

He immediately regrets adding that last bit. Astrid straightens, making a noise like a frustrated teakettle, and balls her hands into fists.

"What?! Why. Does. Everybody. Keep-" she bites out.

Hiccup's eyes widen with alarm and he quickly places a hand on her knee. That averts the impending explosion- she looks at him, exhales and subsides. "He'd just almost died, okay? I was upset and I wasn't… You know, the Chief didn't get half as much flak for crying in front of everyone," she grumbles.

Fishlegs smiles weakly, still cringing. "Uh…right. Okay. Well, anyway, I got that off my chest, so uh, I'll just let you get back to what you were… We really need to get to the… okay, bye."

Astrid pulls away and they sit awkwardly apart after Fishlegs and Meatlug make a hasty departure.

"So…that was pleasant," Hiccup says dryly.

"Ugh, I can't believe he came looking for you," she groans. "When has that ever happened?"

"Never. He must have been really upset," Hiccup admits.

She looks at him and sighs. "I guess that's the end of working together just the two of us."

"Well… it's not like we can't still hang out together after." He shifts closer, tilting his head reflectively. "You know- maybe he's right. Maybe it won't be a big deal. And… I'd be really proud to, say, be your date to the Fest..."

She turns and smiles, flushing prettily before she bumps her shoulder to his. "Well, I guess that sounds alright."

"If memory serves, it'll be a fine evening of mead and mutton chops accompanied by music, axe-throwing, dancing, aaaand probably one of our friends throwing up and/or getting hauled off by my dad."

She chuckles. "Can't wait."

"Great. I'll pick you up around seven."

She smiles and rests her head against his shoulder, gently poking him in the chest. "Well, that was pretty smooth, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third."

He quirks his eyebrows before he grins and slides his arm around her again. "Yeeeahh, I've been working on it…

She's laughing when he kisses her again, and it turns out that resuming where they left off isn't awkward at all.


They don't see each other much the next day- the whole village is busy getting the feast ready and booths and tables set up. Berk has had another record-breaking, prosperous year, and the Fest has expanded accordingly- more people means more food, more musicians, and most importantly: more mead. They are all up early, and even lunch is eaten on the go. Hiccup gets conscripted into helping Gobber solder together last minute pens for the baby dragons (since everybody will be too drunk to put out unexpected fires) and he only spots Astrid through the crowd, moving platters of marinated chops and vats of smoked salmon with the others.

It feels odd not to have her or Toothless there to blow off steam with, and a ball of nervous anticipation has settled in his gut. He wonders how his dad will react- gods, he wonders how her dad will react. But working iron and then coaxing the babies into their new accommodation eats up the day, and before he knows it he's hurrying through giving Toothless his dinner and himself a quick wash and change.

Toothless eyes him skeptically as he fiddles with his damp hair, trying to make it look cooler somehow.

"Yeah, yeah- we can't all be as naturally handsome as you, bud. What do you think?"

Toothless blinks, sits back and burps.

"Very encouraging." He sighs, giving himself a wan smile in the mirror before taking a deep breath. "Well. Wish me luck."

Toothless gives him a nudge out the door and a bright bark/growl, and Hiccup grins and gives him a pat, feeling slightly more confident.

Astrid's house is just a short walk away, and he can feel his cheeks color as he walks up the steps. He knocks, bracing himself for that awkward conversation with her dad.

He's pleasantly surprised when the door opens.

She's done her hair different, weaving flowers into her braid, and she's wearing a new dress that makes her eyes seem an even brighter blue.

"Hey." Her cheeks are rosy and she seems a little nervous too.

"Hi. You look…wow."

She beams. "Thanks- took forever to do the hair. My dad's already left to host the axe throwing, so I told him we might drop by."

He gulps. "Oh. He'll be armed. Perfect."

"Hiccup! It's just my dad. Wanna go? I'm starving."

He takes a deep breath and offers his arm. "Well, milady, this way for Midsummer Fest."

There are a few murmurs as they walk toward the square with her holding onto his arm, but Fishlegs was right: it's not the big deal it was a couple years ago- or maybe they're just not as sensitive. In fact everybody seems almost…proud. The brewer waves away Hiccup's payment, beaming, planting two mugs in front of them without asking; the butcher's wife winks and fills their platters with choice cuts. They find seats easily too- Bucket and Mulch almost trip in their eagerness to scoot down the table to offer them room.

They both glance around, noting the knowing smiles and whispers before wryly looking back at each other.

She tries to be positive. "At least they're giving us space, I guess."

But it's awkward trying to think of what to say, knowing there are so many eyes on them.

That is, until Snotlout clouts Hiccup in the shoulder a second later. "Hey loverboy, heard you had a- Astrid?"

Tuffnut and Ruffnut are right behind him. "Whooooa, weeeeird. You look totally like a girl like that," Ruffnut says, studying Astrid with a look of baffled awe. She touches a dress sleeve experimentally.

Astrid shoves her hand away and growls. "Do you mind? We're kind of on a date here."

"Why? You might have to like, kiss Hiccup at the end of it." Tuffnut says.

Hiccup gives him and Snotlout annoyed looks. "Pretty sure she's aware of that."

Their dumbfounded looks are priceless, if not really worth the sheer annoyance. But the twins seem to accept the news without any further explanation.

"Oh. Okay then. Come on guys- we're harshing the vibe." Tuff says. "And we still haven't found an unguarded keg. Later," Ruff says, tugging on Snotlout's vest to drag him along, since he's still standing with his mouth agape.

Hiccup and Astrid watch them disappear back into the crowd before turning to look at each other in disbelief.

They can't help it. They both start laughing.

After that it's easier to just relax and hang out like they normally do, even if it's slightly nerve-wracking greeting her dad as he casually hands out axes, and hard not to feel self-conscious when she cajoles him into dancing. But they both have fun- Astrid places admirably when she takes a turn at axe throwing, and Hiccup discovers how easy it is to spin on his new leg on the dance floor, to their mutual delight. He can't help grinning when he spots his dad watching them whoop and turn, and he gets a proud smile and nod.

Walking her home after, they're both pleasantly tired and talking easily, and it feels pretty darn good to hold hands.

And if there are witnesses when they kiss goodnight on her front step, neither of them care anymore.

***

Sorry for the delay in updating- I tried so, so hard to get this done before HTTYD2 released but jetlag and responsibilities made that impossible. Gah. Anyway, I'll be watching in 3D on Tuesday- SO EXCITED. :DDDDD

I really wanted to capture that sweet thrill of first love and the first date, in all its awkward teenage glory. I've also been wondering about a couple things- why they take a bunch of steps back after a few canon kisses, plus this whole "thrust into leadership" plot that HTTYD2 seems to be about. So this chapter was born.

Comments are always appreciated~


Dark Horse (Chapter 3)


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